Social Issues

U of M responds to protests, questions over whether arrested protesters are banned from campus

University of Minnesota: No current student or employee arrested Tuesday is banned from campus

police line up in front of students
Police line up in front of student protesters after issuing a dispersal order to student protesters during a third consecutive day of pro-Palestinian protests at the University of Minnesota on Thursday. After a standoff and despite threatening arrest, police abruptly left without detaining anyone.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated: April 26, 12:05 p.m. | Posted: April 25, 7:19 p.m.

University of Minnesota students are protesting on campus this week, calling on the school to divest from weapons manufacturers and companies tied to the Israeli military. The students also want the school to end study abroad programs in Israel. 

In a statement to MPR News, the U said it has “very little direct business or investments in Israel or Palestine.” The spokesperson said two study abroad programs in Israel were suspended this year because of the war.

Earlier this week, nine people were arrested, seven of whom are current or former students, for criminal trespass. Those arrested initially received warnings that they would be banned from campus for a year, but the university said it lifted that ban for the current students and employee.

A crowd protests
“The university’s response has been completely ridiculous,” said Sasmit Rahman on Thursday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

“No current student or employee arrested on Tuesday morning is banned from campus,” a university spokesperson said in a statement Thursday to MPR News. 

The school said the former student and community member who were arrested are still banned.

“It's my understanding the one-year trespass warnings received by the two individuals involved who are not affiliated with the University remain in effect,” University of Minnesota spokesperson Jake Ricker said in a statement to MPR News.

U: Students were not arrested for protesting

The university said the students were not arrested for protesting, which the U said is a regular occurrence on campus, but rather for “the choice to establish and remain in a prohibited encampment.”

In a previous statement, the university said the students were violating campus policy and state law, which prevent tents and other encampment arrangements on university property without a permit. Students had set up tents and yurts on the field in front of Coffman Memorial Union.

A person pins a sign to the back of a friends back
A woman pins a pro-Palestinian sign to the back of a friend on Thursday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The U said the current students and the employee who were arrested had their civil trespass warnings set aside and are still allowed on campus.

“Individuals arrested for criminal trespass on Tuesday morning were issued civil trespass warnings with standard language about possible penalties,” Ricker said.

“In the cases of the current students and the employee who understood they’d be arrested by remaining in Tuesday morning’s encampment and chose to remain, their civil trespass warning was set aside and they are all allowed on campus. They will still be subject to the University’s process for assessing additional consequences under the applicable employee and student policies.”

Ricker said that, since Tuesday, the protests have ended without arrests or injuries.

Campus police responded again after students reassembled an encampment on Thursday evening near McNamara Alumni Center. According to a statement from the university, university officers approached protesters around 10 p.m. Thursday and told them to disassemble their tents.

Protesters left and moved to another campus location, where police confronted them again around 12:45 a.m. Friday and asked them to renove the tents. They did, but stayed on site to continue a peaceful protest. Police left the scene without making arrests.

A protester holds a sign
A protester takes part in a chant on Thursday marking the third consecutive day of pro-Palestinian protests at the University of Minnesota.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Arrested former student: U response is ‘ridiculous’

Sasmit Rahman was among the nine people arrested Tuesday.

She said protesters who did not want to be arrested left the area and protesters sat in a circle as police came in and arrested them.

Rahman said she and the others arrested were initially banned from campus. She said the ban has since been lifted for the current students and staff member, but said her ban is still in effect, because she is a former student — not a current one.

Rahman said she intends to fight the ban.

“The university’s response has been completely ridiculous,” she said. “The more police they try to send, the more they try to repress us, the more support for us grows.”

A person holds a sign that says free free palestine
"This is a time where the student movements not only growing stronger, but we are growing victorious," said Celia Nimez on Thursday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Celia Nimz, a member of Students for a Democratic Society at the university and on the national level, said she feels the response has been heavy handed.

“I’m pretty angry of how the university responding to everything, rather than like meeting with us or opening up any discussion, they actually closed it off and they’ve decided to violently attack protesters with police, something I find disgusting and an abuse of power from the university,” Nimz said. “And this is something that we’re not only seeing here in Minnesota, but from people I’ve talked to in other chapters we’ve seen in other states and other cities as well.”

They are continuing protests that are part of a larger national movement on college campuses across the country. 

People protest and hold flags
In a statement to MPR News, the U said on Thursday it has “very little direct business or investments in Israel or Palestine.”
Tim Evans for MPR News

“The student movement has escalated our tactics, we’ve escalate our demands,” Nimz said. “We’ve raised the level of protests on campus. And this is a powerful moment. This is a moment that's going to force university administrations, administrators and administrations to take up and carry out our demands of divestment. This is a time where the student movements not only growing stronger, but we are growing victorious.”

Campus police, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol have been part of the law enforcement presence around the protests and encampment.

“UMPD has been the lead agency for the protests at the University. MPD was an assisting agency,” MPD Sgt. Garrett Parten said in a statement to MPR News. “No arrests were made by MPD.”

The State Patrol said it sent 28 patrol members on Tuesday.

MPR News reporter Estelle Timar-Wilcox contributed to this story.

The Palestine flag waves
The U said Thursday that the current students and the employee who were arrested had their civil trespass warnings set aside and are still allowed on campus.
Tim Evans for MPR News
Volume Button
Volume
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News